Test-track-and-tracing campylobacter food poisoning in retail chickens, from farm to fork

  • Kenneth James Forbes (Coordinator)
  • Norval Strachan (Coordinator)
  • Iain D Ogden (Coordinator)


Description of impact

In one of the world's largest molecular epidemiological studies of its kind, University of Aberdeen researchers identified retail chicken as the single largest source of Campylobacter food poisoning in Scotland. This underpinning evidence has been used by Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency to inform their Scottish and UK strategies for reducing food poisoning, and across the EU, by the European Food Standards Agency to drive the introduction of regulations that specify permissible levels of Campylobacter on chicken carcasses. This has led to radical industry interventions that has reduced Campylobacter in poultry meat improving food safety for 445 million EU people consuming over 15 million tonnes of poultry per year.

Interdisciplinary themes or connection to 2040 strategy

Outcomes to Date / Future Developments

The Aberdeen work investigating the sources of human Campylobacter infection in Scotland was the first study in the world to do so on a national scale and this was reported in REF2014. Since then, the more recent Grampian-based studies have further refined and strengthened the evidence at a genome-wide resolution – detailing that retail poultry is the main reservoir of human campylobacteriosis. In the current REF period these data have driven the public health strategies of both Food Standards Scotland and Food Standards Agency in aiming to reduce Campylobacter from the 250 million a retail chickens produced in the UK each year. This has been achieved by industry interventions, listed by the British Poultry Council Chief Executive as including “ on farm biosecurity; catching practices; thinning practices; crates and modules; scalding practices; washing practices; heat treatments; cold treatments and novel packaging” [ S1] which have reduced the prevalence of birds with >1000 cfu/g (colony-forming units: a measure of viable bacteria per gram) from 18.4% to 5.8% between 2014 and 2019 b. Our work has had international impact across the EU, with its 445 million citizens, and annual consumption of over 15 million tonnes of poultry per year. Our work has had international impact by providing underpinning data on which to base current EU regulations on the permissible levels of Campylobacter in retail chicken.
Impact statusImpact Completed (Open)
Impact date20082019


  • Political